Take Seven Free Courses From the Museum of Modern Art (aka MoMA)

If you would like to know more about mod­ern art, but have dif­fi­cul­ty wrap­ping your head around the Futur­ists, Neo-Impres­sion­ists, Abstract Expres­sion­ists, and the myr­i­ad oth­er ‑ists and ‑isms  of this vast sub­ject, per­haps you should unteth­er your­self from time­lines.

Mod­ern Art & Ideas, a free online course from the Muse­um of Mod­ern Art (aka MoMA), shifts the focus away from peri­od and move­ment, instead group­ing works accord­ing to four themes: Places & Spaces, Art & Iden­ti­ty, Trans­form­ing Every­day Objects, and Art & Soci­ety.

It’s an approach that’s worked well for MoMA’s Edu­ca­tion Depart­ment. (Anoth­er upcom­ing online class, Art & Ideas: Teach­ing with Themes, is rec­om­mend­ed for pro­fes­sion­al edu­ca­tors look­ing to devel­op the ped­a­gog­i­cal skills the depart­ment employs to get vis­i­tors to engage with the art.)

The course, which begins today, is taught by Lisa Maz­zo­la, Assis­tant Direc­tor of the museum’s School and Teacher Pro­grams and a vet­er­an of their pre­vi­ous for­ays into Mas­sive Open Online Cours­es.

An ear­ly les­son on how artists cap­ture envi­ron­ments con­sid­ers three works: Vin­cent van Gogh’s The Star­ry Night (1889), Piet Mondrian’s Broad­way Boo­gie Woo­gie (1942–43), and Gor­don Matta-Clark’s Bin­go. Vin­tage pho­tos and footage con­spire with peri­od music to whisk stu­dents to the set­tings that inspired these works—a bucol­ic French men­tal hos­pi­tal, New York City’s bustling, WWII-era Times Square, and a derelict house in down on its luck Nia­gara Falls.

Reg­u­lar read­ers of Open Cul­ture are like­ly to have a han­dle on some of the ways art stars Fri­da Kahlo and Andy Warhol explored iden­ti­ty, the course’s third week theme, but what about Glenn Ligon, a liv­ing African Amer­i­can con­cep­tu­al artist?

Ligon may not have the renown or tote bag appeal of his lesson­mates, but his 1993 series, Run­aways, is pow­er­ful enough to hold its own against Kahlo’s Self-Por­trait with Cropped Hair and Warhol’s Gold Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe.

In fact, teach­ers look­ing to expand their Black His­to­ry Month cur­ricu­lum could spark some live­ly dis­cus­sions by show­ing stu­dents the extreme­ly accu­rate fac­sim­i­les of 19th-cen­tu­ry run­away slave ads fea­tur­ing phys­i­cal descrip­tions of Ligon, solicit­ed from friends who’d been told they were sup­ply­ing details for a hypo­thet­i­cal Miss­ing Per­son poster.

Ligon’s series is also a good start­ing place for dis­cussing con­cep­tu­al art with a friend who thinks  con­cep­tu­al art is best defined as White Cow in a Snow­storm.

Offered on Cours­era, the 5‑week course requires approx­i­mate­ly 2 hours of study and one quiz per week. Enroll here, or browse MoMAs oth­er cur­rent offer­ings also on Cours­era.

Note: To take the cours­es for free, selec­tion the Audit (as opposed to paid) option dur­ing the enroll­ment process.

Note: Open Cul­ture has a part­ner­ship with Cours­era. If read­ers enroll in cer­tain Cours­era cours­es, it helps sup­port Open Cul­ture.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Tree of Mod­ern Art: Ele­gant Draw­ing Visu­al­izes the Devel­op­ment of Mod­ern Art from Delacroix to Dalí (1940)

The Muse­um of Mod­ern Art (MoMA) Puts Online 75,000 Works of Mod­ern Art

What to Say When You Don’t Under­stand Con­tem­po­rary Art? A New Short Film, “Mas­ter­piece,” Has Help­ful Sug­ges­tions

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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  • Susan Kaufman says:

    Very inter­est­ed in cours­es on con­tem­po­rary and mod­ern art and pho­tograp­shs.
    Are there an in per­son class­es or hybrid class­es?
    When do class­es start and what is the sched­ule?
    Thank you
    Susan Kauf­man

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